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Hunter Henry on COVID-19 list and likely out for Chargers vs. Broncos

 Chargers tight end Hunter Henry catches a pass during the first quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, shown catching a pass against the Raiders, probably will not play Sunday after being placed on the COVID-19 list.
(Jeff Bottar / Associated Press
)

The Chargers placed starting tight end Hunter Henry on the COVID-19 reserve list Thursday, their most impactful use of the designation this season.

Henry hasn’t practiced all week and is expected to be unavailable Sunday against Denver.

For the season, he became the sixth Charger added to the COVID list, joining offensive linemen Trey Pipkins and Ryan Groy, safety Derwin James, linebacker Kyzir White and cornerback Brandon Facyson.

Pipkins has been on the list twice and was just activated again Monday.

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James, who was an All-Pro as a rookie in 2018, is the biggest-name Charger to be on the list but already was out for the season because of a knee injury when he was added last week.

The Chargers did not use the COVID list until late October, when Groy was added the same day Lynn canceled practice as a precaution. Lynn revealed in August that he had contracted the virus during the offseason.

The Chargers’ Chris Harris Jr. did not play against his former team, the Denver Broncos, in their first meeting because of a foot injury. He aims to make up for that Sunday.

Henry is the team’s second-leading receiver with 60 catches and 613 yards. He also has scored four touchdowns.

League-wide, Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, Las Vegas’ Darren Waller and Washington’s Logan Thomas are the only tight ends with more receptions.

Henry is coming off a particularly productive game in a 30-27 overtime victory over the Raiders. He caught five passes for 65 yards and a score. Each of his receptions went for a first down.

Donald Parham, who is in his first NFL season after spending part of 2020 in the XFL, is Henry’s primary backup.

The Chargers also could be without their leading receiver Sunday. Keenan Allen hasn’t practiced the last three days because of a hamstring injury that slowed him in the game at Las Vegas.

Named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl on Monday, Allen hasn’t missed a game since 2016. Coach Anthony Lynn suggested Thursday that Allen could be a game-time decision.

Because of Christmas, Lynn adjusted the team’s schedule this week, practicing on Tuesday and moving the players’ off day to Friday.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler finds open field against the Raiders defense in Week 16.
(David Becker / Associated Press
)

Fantasy world

Seattle’s Chris Carson and Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs are the among the NFL players who recently have exchanged jabs with fantasy football owners on social media.

Austin Ekeler typically has taken a different approach, willingly engaging with the public on his various platforms.

“It’s a good time,” the Chargers running back said this week. “I love talking about fantasy with the community. As long as they keep it positive, I’m always open to it.”

The Chargers, who experienced their first season at an empty SoFi Stadium because of the coronavirus outbreak, hope to play in front of fans next season.

Ekeler explained that he has tried to be more available this season because of media restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all interviews in 2020 have been conducted remotely.

“I just felt a lot of disconnect with limited media presence,” Ekeler said. “I understand the importance of trying to capture this platform that the NFL offers. For me, that’s connecting with fans.”

And he is open to doing it, as long as the conversation remains upbeat.

“You get a quick ban if you’re in there talking anything negative,” Ekeler said, smiling. “We have no tolerance for that. My community I’ve built up understands that.”

Tillery busy

The season-ending loss of edge rusher Melvin Ingram to a knee injury has allowed the Chargers to give more playing time to Jerry Tillery as he continues to develop along the defensive front.

The 2019 first-round pick out of Notre Dame has played at least 80% of the defensive snaps in three of the last four games. During the first 25 games of his career, Tillery reached 80% only twice.

“He’s doing a good job on the edge,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “He’s giving us more rush than we anticipated. We like his upside out there. I know versus the run, it’s different when he’s out there over a tight end.”

Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert was not sure he would get on the field this season, but circumstance led to a record-breaking season.

Tillery was selected No. 28 overall and was slowed during his rookie year by a shoulder injury that required surgery before the draft. He played mostly inside last season and struggled at times adjusting to the greater physical demands of the NFL.

Bradley said that in an ideal setting Tillery could line up at end on first and second downs and then move inside to provide pressure on third downs while opening a spot for a quicker edge rusher.

Tillery has 27 tackles and three sacks this season. He also has forced two fumbles.

Etc.

Defensive end Joey Bosa (concussion protocol) practiced on a limited basis for the second consecutive day. Edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu (knee) remained out. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (foot) returned to being a full participant. ... Even though they aren’t practicing, the Chargers will release their official game-day injury designations Friday afternoon.


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